The public health crisis over the past couple years has facilitated conversation over federal, state, and private vaccine mandates. Many individuals, for personal, religious, medical and/or political reasons, have challenged whether these mandates are legal. While vaccine mandates are legal and Constitutional, so is the option to request an exemption. An experienced Ohio vaccine attorney can help you apply for a vaccine exemption for yourself and/or your child.
Are Vaccine Mandates Legal?
This is not the first time in history that vaccine mandates have been challenged. In 1901, when a smallpox epidemic swept through Massachusetts, state law allowed individual cities to require residents to be vaccinated. Cambridge adopted an ordinance requiring all adults to receive the regulated smallpox vaccine, subject to a $5 fine. In 1902, Pastor Henning Jackson challenged that ordinance. Jackson suggested that he and his son had been injured by a previous vaccine, declined to get vaccinated again, and refused to pay the fine. He argued that the “compulsion to introduce disease into a healthy system is a violation of liberty.” The state courts, however, rejected his claim. So, he took his case to the Supreme Court.
In 1905, the Supreme Court also rejected his claim. Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that states had the power to regulate vaccines for the protection of public health, stating “a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members”. Justice Harlan’s decision, however, did not completely prevent further discussion. He ended his opinion by stating the limitations of his ruling:
“We are not inclined to hold that the statute establishes the absolute rule that an adult must be vaccinated if it be apparent or can be shown with reasonable certainty that he is not at the time a fit subject for vaccination or that vaccination, by reason of his then condition, would seriously impair his health or probably cause his death.”
In conclusion, state mandated vaccines were deemed legal and Constitutional, but the option of requesting an exemption to those mandated vaccines was put into place.
Since then, each state has put laws into place requiring children to receive certain vaccines before beginning school or public day care. The goal of these laws is to protect children and communities from contagious disease. Still, per the 1905 Supreme Court decision, parents may opt out of one or more vaccines for personal, religious or medical reasons. Vaccine exemption laws vary from state to state, and each state has specific protocols to follow and documents to submit for consideration.